Interior design modifications are simple and not too expensive, yet can make a significant impact on increasing property value. In this episode, the mastermind of the renowned Beverly Hills Interiors, Ron Dayan, shares some of his personal experiences and stories with regards to interior designing. He also talks about some of his designs on mansions, aircraft, yacht and even the spaceship Enterprise on the set of Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek Next Generation.
Voices.com is an online marketplace that connects business people with professional voiceover talents. In this episode, the Co-founder and CEO of Voices.com, David Ciccarelli, provides insights about his company and talks about how they’re developing speakers and providing voice assistance that is good for businesses. David also touches on podcasting, building voice applications, and what he sees changes in the marketplace for the things they are doing in the company.
We have Ron Dayan and David Ciccarelli here. Ron is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design. He’s a mastermind of the renowned Beverly Hills Interiors and David is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Voices. We have quite a unique show. We’re going to learn everything about interior design to voiceovers. I hope you stay tuned because it’s going to be fascinating.
Listen to the podcast here
The Art Of Interior Designing With Ron Dayan
I am here with Ron Dayan, who is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design. He’s a mastermind of the renowned Beverly Hills Interiors. He has a wealth of experience and expertise. He’s considered by many worldwide to be one of the foremost authorities within the world of interior design and decoration. He was educated in Europe and the UK. He’s traveled the globe. He’s a fascinating guy and I’ve seen some of his work. It’s amazing. Welcome, Ron.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.
I was excited to talk to you. We’ve had a chance to chat in the past and I’ve seen some of the pictures of your work and some of the stuff you’ve done is amazing. It’d be pretty interesting too for people to get a background on you. What led to your interested in interior design? Can you give us a little background on you?
Yes. I was educated at the Polytechnic of North London. I also educated in the School of Art in Paris and the School of Art in Florence, Italy and decided to see the world and had good faith in it too. I joined British Airways and became a first-class flight attendant later on in the 747. I saw 35 countries through my eyes and not through the eyes of photographers. I was visiting with a client in Newport Beach who I have an area in the backyard that there was no use for it. I was wondering what was I should do there. I said, “Why don’t we do a secret garden or something Italian that we’ll have a piece of a Roman ruin that we can recreate with walkways and boxwood hedges, aromatic flowers and water? These are the three elements of Italian landscaping which is green water and stone.” He said, “What a brilliant idea. We have never thought of it.” I said, “That is why you are a developer of shopping malls and I’m an interior designer.”
I didn’t realize you did outdoors as well.
Particularly in California when you spend more than eleven months out of the year outdoors. Nowadays, people want to get to it so quickly that they either have disappearing doors or bi-folding.
In Arizona, we have to close up the back windows because it gets you so hot but it depends on some of the homes I’ve seen of how they continue into the backyard. Some of the pictures you’ve sent me are right up and unbelievable. It reminded me of better than what you’d see in the Wall Street Journal. They show the beautiful mansions and the things that they do. What’s the largest home you’ve worked on?
45,000 square feet. That was a house in Beverly Hills where we did 45,000 square feet with an indoor swimming pool, two-lane bowling alley, a hair salon because you don’t want to go public, you want the hairdresser to come to you. We also had to run outside for space and the client said, “I want to have a tennis court,” but we ran out of the land so we spent $350,000 to do foundations on the side of the mountain to have a cantilevered tennis court. He said, “I want to have a helipad,” and the neighbors said, “No, you’re not going to have a helipad. If you want a helipad, move some place near Palm Springs. You can have a helipad over there.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the worst problem that you had to worry about whether you can get your helipad or not? Sometimes with some of the things that they have, it’s amazing what you could come up with. Is it a Hollywood celebrity that you deal with or are there some other background and people that have that kind of house?
I must admit and this will probably be surprising for lots of people that the celebrities I designed photo did not have any outrageous requests because they perhaps to have flamboyant when they’re on stage or when they play on the hardwood floor shooting baskets but when they’re at home, they are more conservative. It’s quite surprising even for members of Guns and Roses and the LA Lakers. I tell them it’s family-oriented and it’s small subdued.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the Woody Allen movie, Small Time Crooks, where they have no money but they come up into money overnight and she goes overboard with decorating her house. It’s pretty funny. Do you get a lot of people like that come into a big fortune but then they do have outrageous requests and they want you to do things that make no sense at all?
I find myself quite often being not only the designer but also the financial guide and maybe even a realtor of the client when I say to them, “Don’t do this because you will never get it back when you sell it.” They asked, “Are you an interior designer or real estate agent?” To which I reply, “I design as is if the property is going to be sold on the very day I finished it. Whether you decide to sell it or not, that’s not going to matter but my role is to design the property that you have selected so that it can be sold and fetch you with a tidy profit.” I have seen profits from 32% to 275% which is enormous considering that the bank gives you 1% there.
A lot of people don’t want to put money into their house because they don’t think they’re going to get a return on investments. That’s quite amazing. A lot of them are staging their houses when they sell them. Do you do any staging?
I don’t do staging because I’m one of those who does not believe in staging. People who are spending their hard-earned money to buy the estate homes don’t need to see a pair of sofas and a coffee table by the fireplace in order to realize that this is their dream home. They have more sophistication than that. Staging, there may be some readers who love stages and they’ll probably put my picture on the wall and throw a dart with it. The stages have one style fits all and in all the pictures that I see, you can detect immediately that this house has been staged. You see the white canvas furniture that does not fit it style-wise, scale-wise and proportion-wise to the house. Whenever I’m asked if I’m doing this, I say no. Stages do not have to be a designer. It does not have to have any qualifications or certifications. They just throw furniture into all the houses that real estate agents bring to them like the dealer in Vegas and it looks like it. I asked a close friend of mine who was also doing $100 million to $150 million a year every year in sales, “Do your clients buy the staged furniture?” He said, “Never.” “Why use it?”
You’re dealing with a high-level clientele here. You’re at the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous type of homes. Have you been featured on that?
Yes, I was featured with Robin Leach and Smokey Robinson on the state that we designed for Smokey. It was quite an extraordinary place. If you could imagine Tara with Gone with the Wind, it was built in 1893. The southern mansion was moved to its present location in 1912 which is if you could imagine moving a house in 1912 seventeen miles to a new home. I restored the house and restored the guest house and then continued to do the landscaping which was two acres.When one designs for a celebrity, one has to be prepared to design for them and not just come early and leave it to working hours. Click To Tweet
That’s an amazing size of property to deal with. We’ve talked before but I didn’t realize you did the outdoors. What was it like with the Robin Leach? Is he seem just about everything or does he still get just wowed by things?
The extraordinary thing as far as I’m concerned is that all the other episodes and I would say with no exception, featured Robin and the celebrity guest with Smokey Robinson. It was the only one that I was on the show as well. I was featured as well and Smokey talked about me and Robin Leach did. They thought that it would be best that I will share the concept of what was behind the project. How do you take a southern mansion and make it fit a megastar? He’s a living legend and one of the founders of Motown.
That must’ve been a huge project. How long does it take you to do something like that?
About two-and-a-half years. We could have built a new house a lot sooner but he was so in love with the charm and the romance of the Gone with the Wind property and the grounds itself that they were oak trees on the property that were planted in the ‘20s. I had that and going over them. One of the wonderful things we did was installed was called moonlighting which is mercury of vapor lamps that nowadays not illegal because they consume too much electricity but in those days they were approved and they shoot up towards the canopy of the tree and from the canopy down fixtures positioned at nighttime to create silhouettes on the ground. It looks like there is a full moon right over the property if you could imagine.
A lot of people are trying to create an experience. Steve Sims has been on my show and he creates these amazing experiences with the people who want to meet the Pope and have Elton John teach them to play the piano or whatever it is. I could see that just redoing something would be one of those kinds of experiences. Do you ever have like a husband or wife do something behind their spouses back like a surprise?
I’ve been very involved in what they do discreetly over that. They usually come to me as a unified group. Perhaps with the exception of one rockstar who forgot that he had an apartment. When I strolled into the living room, the wife called him and said, “I think you best come. Our favorite designer wasn’t here.” Another member of his group and at the time they were on the top of the chart came to visit and he treated me as if I were the celebrity. I spoke to him with much respect because he is selling millions and millions of albums and featured on the music videos and so on. They were very different in person than they are on stage or when the camera is rolling.
When one designs for a celebrity, one has to be prepared to design for them and not just come early and leave it to working hours. There was no 9 to 5 when you work for a celebrity because they rise late, due to the fact that they go to bed early in the morning. Some of them are composing all night because that’s when there are peace and quiet and they get the inspiration and also they travel. When they’re on tour for 40, 50 City tour, it’s quite hectic, so be prepared to receive phone calls at 10:00 or 11:00 at night and be prepared to answer the questions of what has happened at the project during the day and what will happen. When one works with celebrities, one has to be prepared to work with a supporting cast and that supposing cast is personal secretaries, lawyers, managers, accountants and all of them must be satisfied that the bookkeeping and everything are in order.
Do you ever have a few people who are tough to work with? How do you deal with that because they’re so used to having things of specific way? Do you pretty much have to work around what they want or is there a negotiation sometimes of what you think would be better for them?
I see my role not only as a designer but also as an educator. The best way to describe it will be having designed a mountain top to State in Malibu for a concert promoter who was promoting the biggest artist in this country. He called one day and he said, “You won’t believe this. I bought a condo in Aspen and I designed it in the same way that you would have because when we work together you showed me that design is not only a matter of talent but there was a lot of logic that goes behind it.” This is what I do when I make a presentation to a client, I don’t say, “I’m the designer, you are the client, you will approve of this or I’m out the door.”
I give them the reason and I show them the process of what has happened to arrive at the decision. A lady who was on daytime television said to me before she signed the contract, “Why do I need you? I have a friend who is a designer. We go to the Design Center, we got 40% off, I don’t need a designer.” I said to her, “The purchase of an item for an interior design project is the very last step. It’s to arrive at a decision on what to buy.” She said, “I never thought of it but you have a point.” I do educate the client to the point that if they were to try to make an independent project afterward, they already know the road signs to follow.
You redid your entire interior and the time’s change. What becomes stylish goes out of date. Is there a timeframe that you expect these to need to be redone again?
Long ago, there was a television program when House & Garden television had programs to do with houses and not just reality TV. That they interviewed the late Angelo Donghia and asked him when is a project done? He said, “The project is never done because you always leave something for future expansion and you always update it.” That is why I didn’t believe in doing sets the sofa that matches the love seat that matches the armchair that matches the curtains. I like to put together items that they looked like they were purchased in different countries and different continents but they look good once you have assembled them.
You can envision that in your mind. I have a hard time, I’m not very good at interior design, I have to admit and I have a terrible time envisioning things. Do you ever get it in the place and then they go, that’s not at all what I thought it would be? How do you deal with that?
I cannot be in closed situations in which clients said that’s what they all do is not that what they have received. I go through the process and show them everything in the drawing, in a photo and samples.
Can you send it on computers to show him or you do it on a drawing on a paper?
I show the drawings and then I show them the photos and then I put the samples of the actual material in their hands and once they have that, they say, “This is quite clear.” Therefore, when the items arrive, the only surprise that they can have is a good one.
I know that a lot of your work is not just outdoor and not just indoor. Don’t you do planes and yachts or unusual things? What’s the most unusual thing you’ve done?
I designed four jets and one yacht and also the spaceship enterprise on sets of Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek Next Generation with Patrick Stewart, so there were two Brits on the set.
What was he like?
He’s awfully funny. I remember that the first time that we met, I was speaking to the producer and discussing one of the scenes that we will be shooting the next day and all of a sudden I hear a familiar voice behind me and he says, “I’m not the only Brit on the set.” I turned around and it’s Patrick Stewart and he used to call me Laddie maybe because I’m a junior to him in years. Speaking of an airplane and a yacht, the exciting thing about it is that there was no straight line. Everything is curved, horizontally and vertically so you cannot do as unfortunately, many yacht designers do.You will never know what door is going to open right before in front of you. Click To Tweet
They get presidential furniture and throw it into the boat or the airplane because it doesn’t fit the fuselage. You have to have templates made of the fuselage and have the items fit and snug and further. When you design something for an airplane, it must have multiple uses. You cannot just have a seat to sit and that’s it. It also has to have built-in tables. It must have built-in storage because there’s limited space on the plane and you work with the FAA. That means that I had to send the pictures and samples of the upholstery and a lot of them to the FAA and they burnt it. If it burns too quickly, you cannot use it on board.
I would imagine that would be a problem. What was the hardest thing you’ve had to work on?
In one of the private jets, he used to fly to different cities and pick up the people that he needs to talk to and then they will go in and fly to another town and so on. That was his style and he was a collector of sculptures and he wanted to have fairly large and have the sculptures on board. There’s an issue of weight and there is an issue of what happens to it to take-off and landing. It required special engineering and you also have to compensate for the weight by him by an extra few. That’s something that they don’t teach you in decorating the school.
That’s something to think about and turbulence isn’t part of your initial training, I imagine but that what you do is so fascinating. I remembered the Patrick Stewart thing, now that you’ve brought it up again. How did you get to be chosen for that to do the Star Trek deck?
I did several television shows for CBS and other networks and television commercials and the set designer became ill and they were looking for one who can just fit in straight away. The art director, Yumi, he brought me in for an interview and to make some sketches and show what I can do and they just loved it. That was, unfortunately, a sad way to get in because somebody became ill but I continued. In his vision as much as I could because the show has permanent sets and then there are also sets that are created for specific episodes so the permanent sets cannot change.
The deck where he sits on and everybody with the computers and all that, is that something you created or different parts of what we see?
Parts of it I created. I hate to perhaps disappoint the readers with a bit of Hollywood reality, but a lot of what you see on television is done in post-production. When the engineers and Lieutenant Commander Date is standing in front of the instruments and he’s tapping with his fingers and the graphics move and you hear all sorts of sounds, he was tapping into a blank screen. There was nothing there. The graphics and the sound effects added in post-production. Many of the other scenes are filmed against the green screen. For example, when Captain Jean-Luc Picard is standing at the bridge and he’s speaking to an alien ship, he’s looking at a green screen. The alien ship is this something which is filmed separately and then inserted later on. This is where technology and creativity get blended.
It is interesting to look at some of the different things you’ve done because it’s so creative. Were you always a creative child?
I have to say that I’m not. When it came to high school, I wanted to enroll in a school that also encourages creativity. I joined one where you learn general education from 8:00 to 12:00, but from 12:00 to 3:30, you go to the shop that has sophisticated machinery and the shop is surrounded by small rooms where you have the handed tools and you build furniture that you designed upstairs. When I design a piece of furniture, I knew how it is made without using any nails or any screws and I know how to build it myself.
You’ve got that visual in your mind. That’s interesting because Sir Ken Robinson had talked about how schools were educating us out of our creativity but you found one that didn’t, which is good, right?
Yes. When I met Smokey, I walked through the estate with him, which took us over an hour to go through all the areas. We ended up in front of the house and I asked him, “Would you like to see my portfolio?” Much to my surprise, he said, “No. I’m not interested in what you have done for other people.,” which is quite the opposite opinion of other clients that I have had. They want to see what I have done for other people and they want to talk to other people. He said I am not interested. I’m interested in what you will do for me. Having heard the brilliant ideas that you shared with me in the last hour with no preparation. What ideas will you have if I gave you two weeks to prepare?
Based on the stuff that you’ve shown me that you have done, I’m one of those people that would have probably wanted to see what you have done because I’m very visual and that helped me to see the genius of what you could put together. I’m sure so many people could utilize your talent. I was excited to have you on the show. For anybody who’s reading this, is there some site you want to share or how they could reach you?
The company website is BeverlyHillsInteriors.net and you’ll be able to see the selection. One cannot take 32 years of design and put it on the website. It doesn’t fit. There’s a way to send us a note for a project, which can be home or land or on the water worldwide. My last three projects overseas were New Delhi, Dubai and Nigeria. Believe me, if you could design in Nigeria, you can design anywhere.
That’s amazing that you’ve done so many things in so many ways around the world. I’m sure a lot of people will find your work just stunning. It was so much fun to have you on the show. Thank you so much, Ron. This was great.
It’s a pleasure.
Doing Voice Overs With David Ciccarelli
I am here with, David Ciccarelli, who is the Cofounder and CEO of Voices.com. It’s an online marketplace that connects business people with professional voiceover talent. It’s so nice to have you here, David.
Thanks and it’s great to be here.
This is going to be great. I know you write for the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine and Forbes. I was looking at some of the backgrounds. It’s pretty interesting stuff. I want to hear more about blending audio engineering with your business savvy and all these things you’ve done to create what you’ve done at Voices. Why don’t you give me a little background on you so if people aren’t familiar with you or Voices, they can learn a little bit more?
Growing up, I always was fascinated with sound and music. My mom had this great old record player where I would play to my heart’s contents. Dad had this short wave radio, which I could tune into radio stations from around the world. Sometimes even hearing people speak different languages. I always had this affinity for voice and sound and that’s where I went to school to learn how to become an audio engineer. When I graduated from this recording engineering school, I opened up a small recording studio in our hometown and I got my name in the local newspaper on my birthday of all days. You might think I’m going to tell you a romance story. That’s actually how I also met my wife, Stephanie.If you're trying to navigate your way through the startup ecosystem, an accelerator is a great way to do that. Click To Tweet
She was a classically trained singer. She sings at weddings and funerals and special events. Her mom read this newspaper article, cut it out and left it for her on her bed saying, you should go get your singing repertoire recorded. I look trustworthy enough that her mom sent her to the studio. We ended up hitting it off and recording her singing repertoire. Because of that same newspaper article, there were other small businesses in the city that wanted a voiceover.
I knew about voiceovers from my education but they wanted a female voice to recording some phone system recordings. Some great local radio commercials and knowing only one girl in the city that I just met before I call that Stephanie and I asked her, “Do you think you can come down to the studio? You’ve got a great singing voice. Maybe you can do the voiceovers as well.” We’ll split the money. I’ll be the engineer and you’d be the voice talent. That’s how we, not only met as cofounders, Stephanie and I but also started this business together which now become, with the pursued for a number of years and realized, if we’re doing voiceovers on our own, we should put up a website.
I’m going back about a decade now. I put up a website that soon attracted freelancers from all around the world. People who spoke French and Spanish who did celebrity impersonations and character voices. They all asked, “Can we be on your website?” We always said yes and that was the proverbial Aha moment. Every entrepreneur has one, which was, “If we’re doing the voiceovers ourselves and yet everybody wants to come onto this platform, what if we backed out of being the talent and the engineer and instead pivoted if you will to running the platform, which is now a freelance marketplace.” There’s a lot of gig economy type marketplaces out there. We were one of the first for voiceover. That’s what we’ve been doing staying true to that initial idea and the niche market of helping as you set off the top business clients, higher professional voice talent.
I remember when I had to start doing my show, I never had intended to do a show and I found out I had somebody interviewed me and I thought it was cool. I said, “How did you get that job?” I can get one if you want it but you have to start in two weeks. I had to figure out how to get everything and all of the guests and all the audio, everything was done in two weeks and I have two weeks ahead of guests for the radio station. I hired somebody off of Fiverr to do the voice for the introduction of me. You do that thing but just specifically for voice then?
Fiverr, Upwork, I would call these generalist freelancer marketplaces. You can hire anyone from a graphic designer to a programmer, a copywriter and an amazing creative service that can be procured. What we found though is that a lot of the marketplaces are becoming more specialized. For instance, on Voices.com, the activity you’re doing is listening. You’re listening to somebody, you’re reading their profile but you want to hear sample recordings of their voice. When you go to post a job, which is similar to any gig economy type marketplace, you post a job and responses come in. The responses on Voices.com are audio recordings. You get to hear your script read aloud by talent who we’ve matched up algorithmically to be a great fit for your job posting. This active listening is one of the things that differentiates Voices.com from a generalist type of marketplace.
People tell me, I sound like Laura Ingraham all the time and I’m going to have to listen to her now because I can never be paid attention to it. My daughter has a voice similar to mine and she speaks all these different languages. I’ll have to tell her to check out your site because she would appreciate that.
Does she have a background in acting as well too? Was she into the performing arts?
No, but maybe she would be interested. You’ll never know. You get to start this through that you were a part of an accelerator in Silicon Valley. Is that what this was? Did you participate?
Exactly. If you’re trying to navigate your way through the startup ecosystem, an accelerator is a great way to do that. Those that might not be aware of. These are typically three to six months or maybe a year-long program where this one was called the Canadian Technology Accelerator. It gives you boots on the ground in either San Francisco, Silicon Valley or New York City. You live, eat and breathe the environment and you’re buddied up with mentors. We had a mentor from who was the Director of Marketing at Facebook that taught us a lot about demand generation and lead generation.
At the end of that experience, it culminates in a demo day where you’re presenting to potential investors, maybe future employees, what your businesses and how they can participate. I went through the same accelerator just once on the west coast and again on the east coast in New York. You’ll never know where these things are going to lead. That led to ultimately us securing some investments of $18 million with Morgan Stanley, a global investment bank that they have their technology practice within the firm. That’s why I love pursuing these types of opportunities because you never know what door is going to open right before in front of you.
Do you have a board of directors or board of advisors? Tell me more about your company.
If you remember from the founding story, neither Stephanie and I had a business background per se. We’ve learned along the way and we developed a leadership team in terms of our company. We have 130 employees and we served a community of 500,000 or half a million users on this platform. We didn’t have a board of directors per se but more informal advisors. That’s one of the things that we very quickly realized was we can only take this company so far. We knew we needed to surrender ourselves with people that we’re smarter than us and more experienced that have been there and done that. Doing so where they’ve also got skin in the game so to speak, where our in incentives are aligned and the board of directors and specifically investors. We felt that we’re in this together over the long haul. That’s why one of the reasons why we pursued raising capital from a globally recognized firm like Morgan Stanley. That’s been a new experience for sure for us and certainly very rewarding as well.
It sounds like you’re doing a lot of amazing things. You mentioned a few things that you do as far as everything is about communication and podcasts and all this stuff that you were talking about. Let’s touch on a couple of the things that you do because you mentioned podcasting. You mentioned creating speakers and assistance and some of that. Let’s go into a couple of those.
When people think of voiceovers immediately, they are like, “It’s okay. I get it. It’s radio and TV commercials.” First of all, what we’ve found is it’s a $4 billion global market in a voice work that’s procured. Now, most of that is in what I would call non-broadcast or industrial use, It’s not the glamorous radio and TV commercials. In fact, that’s only about 10% of the market. Most of it is things that you hear and see day to day but don’t have all the theme and glamor that associate with. Think of a phone system recording or a kiosk that needs to talk to you. A lot of industrial uses but one of over the last several years or so, we’ve witnessed a number of emerging trends. Every time there’s a new technology platform, there are new opportunities both for voice talent but also for businesses to interact and engage with their customers or their audience in new ways. The continuum went from typing on keyboards to tapping touchscreens to now talking to devices. Smart speakers and maybe even talking into your smartphone as well too.
The problem with the biggest trend that we’ve seen is brand marketers looking at smart speakers. I’m going to say more voice assistant as a broader topic, a broader category than just necessarily smart speakers but looking at as a new computing mechanism. This notion of what’s been coined ambient computing where you can walk into a room or walk into space and speak and interact with that space. Believe it or not, the hotels are replacing the phone by the bedside table. I don’t know of anybody who uses those for any other reason than calling down to concierge or maybe ordering some food late night. The big hotels are replacing those phones. Hospitals are replacing the call button for nurses with smart speakers that allow you to interact with the group.
If you’ve ever seen a child walk up to a TV and assume that it’s a touchscreen. Any flat display is assumed to be a touch screen. Similarly, fast forward, five years or so, we’ll walk into a room, particularly in a business environment or maybe even a retail space and assume that you can interact with that and call up information verbally with your voice and have information be read back to you. It’s early days yet but that’s it. It’s a really exciting space. If I may do, the last point on this to quantify this a little bit more. The Amazon Smart Speaker, the Alexa Echo and Echo Dot were the number one selling product on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. There are 100 million of these devices in people’s homes. The average home has 1.7 of these devices which means there’s a device often and the smart speaker in the kitchen. That second place is in people’s bedrooms so it’s more than being used for listening to music.
Sometimes it’s a nighttime routine or even a morning routine where the news, weather and sports highlights are read aloud to you along right after your alarm clock. The evening, maybe it’s some meditation or some winddown music to lull you to sleep. They’re already installed in people’s homes. What we’ve observed is that marketers tend to follow where people go. If the device is there and you can call up voice applications. There was a smartphone or mobile apps. This is a new category called voice apps. Already in 2019, what we found in our surveys was that a quarter of brand marketers have already either invested or are currently investing in building voice applications. That’ll be up to a third of brand marketers by the end of next year. There are investments in this space and it’s a channel that people should, at minimum explore more and see if it might be a good fit for their business.
I’ve had guests on that have had some apps like that. One was a psychology-based one for people who are depressed and there are different ones. I was thinking of all the uses. I use my Echo, I don’t want to say her name or she started talking but we use it every morning played jeopardy or you’re in the bathtub, you could say play spa music or whatever it is. I didn’t think of how many things you use these. I know a lot of people won’t have in their house, freaks them out but I love it. I don’t put in my bedroom, I’m afraid because sometimes they turn off in the night and make noise. Once they fix that, I’ll have it in the bedroom but I don’t want it waking me up.
It just surprised me even in our office, on the new hire orientation as part of a get-to-know-you-type exercise, we run and I’m running this session we’ll call MBA in a day. I talk about some of the current trends in our business and I say, “Does anybody have one of these devices at home?” Pretty much everybody does. Some people don’t have them plugged in all the time or they’re just still trying to figure it out and get comfortable with the technology. I couldn’t believe one fellow said he has four, one in every room and they’re all synced up. Early days yet but you can imagine asking for the device more than just questions and answers. There are stories like choosing your own adventure story that’s more interactive than necessarily just an audiobook. Certainly, information that is delivered right from the brand and not necessarily from a Google search result but Amazon and Google want to deliver a branded experience for you as well.
It’s a pretty cool brand that hasn’t thought about having thought about what their brands sound like. We have a shared Alexa con for visual identity but an auditory identity, not a lot of people have put thought into this yet. That is certainly as I say, emerging space where we find not just the world’s largest brands but companies much smaller. It might be a sound logo and an auditory logo that it is the prefix to their phone calls and on an inbound call or perhaps add a lead in or an intro on their podcast or maybe a product video. We hear on these audio logos or sale logos come into place. Some of them include voice or some of them having brand voice. Several banks that just the same male voice that’s been used for years and years. That creates a sense of predictability and trust and familiarity that I’ve called the right place or I’m getting information from a trusted source.Learn from the mistakes, trials, and tribulations of other businesses. Click To Tweet
This is unique and I find this fascinating. I know with my work with curiosity, I’m dealing with companies who have considered putting it into their app, phone app. I’m trying to envision what you would do of the Voice app. I’m also envisioning how this could be used instead of having a Google voice phone number type of thing where people could call in somehow. Have you started doing that yet?
Some surveys are very popular applications because people can answer audibly and also from the comfort of their own home. I’ve done a number of surveys like this as well too.
The Survey Monkey could use something like that or would they not be interested or something?
There’s a company called SurveyLine that is you build a survey that looks like SurveyMonkey type interface, but you’re interacting with it, you deploy it. Instead of publishing it on the web where you have a URL that you point people to, you’re publishing it to smart speakers, to Amazon Alexa or Google Home Assistant. You’re just deploying the app to those environments. If somebody says launched the Curiosity Survey, it would search through the quote-unquote app store behind the scenes and then launch the survey and then someone could be guided through. That’s whether it’s personality profiles or customer satisfaction surveys, there’s a number that I’ve seen that are like that. SurveyLine would be one of our, I wouldn’t say formal partner but certainly somebody we’ve met a number of times and seen their work and how it plays out. That’s one way to do it.
I create surveys so I think that some people are always taking it on my website, but if they can get the same results by talking into their Echo or something else, that’s an interesting thing to look at. What is the next big thing then for Voices? What do you see changing in the marketplace that you guys are on the cutting-edge of?
I’m going to say this dichotomy between human voice actors that are very compelling in a story-driven format or where the narrative needs to be. The content is relatively static and what is the interplay between humans versus a synthetic voice? If you think of these computer-generated voices like a Google Assistant or Siri or Alexa, these are computer-generated voices. There’s a time and a place for both but I think that is something that we’re navigating through. We view that there’s just more opportunity for voice actors because brands want to create their own branded experience that is often infused with the emotion that only a person can create. That’s one piece. Beyond that, our platform at Voices.com, we’re continuing to build out new features and functionality that help creative teams collaborate online and beyond the 30-second commercials or one-minute explainer videos.
We’re seeing a lot of content that once was maybe for corporate training purposes in textbooks or PowerPoints adding on this voice layer as well to where it’s narrated and even being done in other languages as well too. That certainly is exciting to support that type of volume of work where I’m referring to like tens, if not hundreds of hours of content. We’re building out an enterprise platform if you will, that can support that work. There are some interesting macro trends in terms of how voice is being used and how people every day were interacting with voice. Then behind the scenes we’re building tools to enable that to happen better and faster and still maintaining great quality.
I’m thinking of some of the courses I have built. One of them was with Forbes, their brand publishing course and there are always courses that are in the courses I teach that either I’ve created or somebody else’s created. Sometimes they have voice options. I could imagine that the universities would be very interested in some of what you do.
That is for sure. The hardest part is creating the curriculum and the content. The voicing it over maybe it needs to be edited because you’re reading not and this is incident lessons to it and not necessarily scanning bullets. They don’t always translate perfectly but once the content is created, then you’re transcribing it or transferring it into an auditory format. iTunes U is Apple’s University application for exactly that. There’s a lot of free content there. Udemy and Lynda.com where people can create and publish courses and often adding an auditory element just enhances it that much more.
I always find myself, even when I write my books, I’d like to hear them better than read them. Even though I hired the amazing Deon Graham to do my audiobook for my last book as my voiceover artist, when I read it on my own before I have somebody else to do that part, I often will play it on an audio and in Word documents. In the Word document, I’ll read it to you and it could make so much more sense to me if I listen to something than if I read it. I’m very much that way. I could see how this would be huge for a lot of people. This is fascinating that I hadn’t been aware of your company up until this. I’m very excited to hear more about what you’re doing. I know you’ve continued to expand what you’re doing. Did you finish your Harvard Business training? I know you weren’t enrolled in the last thing I saw.
I still enrolled in that. It’s at Harvard Business School. It’s a great experience. For that part of their executive education, they have a program called Owner President Management and specifically designed actually for entrepreneurs. After World War II, a lot of soldiers and officers were coming back into the workforce. They were maybe past the initial university age and stage and yet needed to be retrained and re-skilled, particularly for a business and corporate environment. That’s where this particular program came about and they’ve been running it since then. It’s the same Harvard MBA professors, a lot of the same key study type not only just the same material but that key study format. We are learning from the mistakes and trials and tribulations of other businesses. Discussing it in a group, it’s challenging. It’s a lot of reading. I showed up the first day and I couldn’t believe there were two massive binders full of cases that needed to be read in a subsequent couple of weeks.
Do you have somebody read it to you out loud because I would if I were you?
No and they do have an audio version, which is very helpful. I’ll continue with that for the next couple of years and that goes to show that you never stop learning. It’s supposed to be an environment where you’re not only learning but building on a network is something special.
It’s funny because I was on a Harvard test to see if I was considering going to get some more psychology-based courses because my degrees are all in business. I took their test, that little tip for it to get a degree, you have to take their writing test. They made me wait like two or three weeks to get my results. I thought, “What if I don’t pass?” I was happy I did. Maybe we’ll run into each other in a class somewhere at Harvard. It was so nice to have you on the show, David. This was so interesting. I know a lot of people will want to know how they can reach you and find out more. Is there a site or something you’d like to share?
The best place, if you’re interested, is checking about learning more about voiceovers, are all going to Voices.com. That’s probably the best one. If you want to follow along with news or anything along those lines, we’re simply @Voices on Twitter and Instagram is also @Voices. We worked hard to get a simple domain name and website address as well as on Twitter and Instagram. Come find this there. If you want to reach me directly or have a chat, it’s at David@Voices.com.
David, thank you so much for being on the show.
Thanks so much, Diane.
I’d really like to thank both Ron and David for being my guests. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can find them all at DrDianeHamilton.com. If you go to the radio part of the show, you can listen to it. We’re everywhere, on iTunes, iHeart, Roku, you name it. You can find us in addition to the AM/FM stations of course. It was so nice to have both of our guests. I enjoyed this episode and I look forward to the next episode of Take the Lead Radio.
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About Ron Dayan
Ron Dayan, MBID, (Member British Institute Interior Design) is the mastermind of the renowned Beverly Hills Interiors. Ron possesses a wealth of expertise and experience, and is considered by many, worldwide, to be one of the foremost authorities within the world of Interior Design & Decoration.
Educated in Europe and the U.K., Dayan has also traveled the globe extensively. He attributes part of his virtuosity to the experience as Set-Designer in London and Hollywood, where a wide variety of styles and periods of architecture and designed were created, at times the demand was over-night!
About David Ciccarelli
David Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and CEO of Voices.com, the online marketplace that connects business people with professional voice over talent.
The unique blending of his audio engineering background with self-taught business savvy and website development afforded David the creative freedom to pursue his passion for innovation during the first dot com boom, the result of which catapulted him onto the scene as a pioneer in his field in the early 2000s.
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